What careers are there in space and how do you get started?

Our Mission: Demystify the Space Sector

We've said it before, and we'll say it again; Space isn't all Astronauts and Rocket Scientists.

There are thousands of different roles in the space sector, and whilst STEM leads the way, there truly is a place for everyone.

Space for Everyone

Space is a growing market

The space sector is one of the fastest growing industries globally – it’s predicted to be worth $3 trillion by 2040.

That's:

  • 20 x the size of the whole Video game industry
  • 15 x the size of the whole supermarket industry
  • 150 x the value of Chelsea Football club – the richest club in the world!
The space sector is projected to be worth 20 x the video game industry by 2040

The global space economy grew by 6.7 % on average per year between 2005 and 2017, almost twice the 3.5 % average yearly growth of the global economy.

One particular contribution to this growth has been the “NewSpace” phenomenon: a series of technological and business model innovations that have led to a significant reduction in costs and resulted in the provision of new products and services that have broadened the existing customer base.

What is the space sector?

The space sector is sectioned roughly into two categories : Upstream, concerned with the manufacture and operations of space systems – getting things into space; and Downstream, which is using the space technology in space and bringing it down to Earth.

That data can be used in a number of different ways:

• Commercial usage: Like farmers using the data to track their crop yields

• Consumer usage: So Satellite TV, Mobile phone networks and Sat Navs. (Canmention games like Pokemon Go – that uses space data!)

• Public Users: Like the weather reports, or for disaster management and warning.

• Defence& security: Satellite data is used to keep us all safe.

NewSpace vs Old Space

The space sector is also made up of NewSpace companies and Old Space organisations. NewSpace companies are independent and privately owned and funded.  There’s been an absolute explosion of NewSpace companies that have started since the turn of the millennium and many of them are driving innovation in the sector. Since 2000, the Space sector has attracted at least €150 billion of private investment every year.

Old Space are the organisations we know and love. It develops the systems that NASA and other government agencies ask for, and is made up of the large heritage aerospace companies.

Where on Earth?

This map shows the regional distribution of space companies around the world – whist the US leads the way with over half the space companies being based here, many other countries are emerging as big players in the space sector. 40% of the world’s countries have space businesses of some type and there are a reported 10,000 space tech companies you could work for!  With the Space sector, you can truly work anywhere in the world – and beyond it.

Distribution of space companies that operate globally

72 nations now have a space programme including European Space Agency, NASA and the UK Space Agency.

Careers in the Space Sector

What roles are there in the space sector?

There are two main routes into any sector 1. Education and 2. Experience


Education

The most traditional route into the sector is through STEM subjects, but any qualification will allow some form of entry into the sector.  Continue with Physics and Maths, and Engineering at secondary level if you can. A traditional route is to focus on these and then go on to study Maths, Physics, Computer Science, Astrophysics, Materials Science or Engineering (Aerospace, Electronic and Mechanical) at university. But don’t forget the other subjects -  Politics, Business, Law and Communication all play a part in current space roles. Geography can be applied to Geology and Planetary Science; Psychology is useful in assessing the impact of space travel on the human mind, Earth Observation Science uses Biology and Chemistry.

Experience

Not every job in the space sector will require you to have a degree, and don’t think the door will be closed if you choose not to get one. There are some fabulous ways to grow your experience so companies will take you seriously. From Competitions and Hackathons to just volunteering – all give you valuable experience that an employer will recognise.

Many people enter the space sector by doing an apprenticeship. Airbus and Rolls Royce are two examples of big companies within the aerospace and space sectors who offer apprenticeships. Some apprenticeships will fund you through university so you can learn on the job and pick up valuable experience and insights from people currently working in the field.

Apply to internships and placements, join space communities, enter competitions and hackathons and register to dedicated recruitment companies like EVONA. Attend as many space events as you can – if you can’t afford the ticket consider volunteering. A lot are taking place online currently so it’s a good time to go to as many as possible. Science and engineering STEM Ambassadors from companies like Airbus and Surrey Satellite Technology (SSTL) run workshops at secondary schools regularly so do your homework and find out about opportunities near you.

We've put together a list of resources at the bottom of this blog post to help and a free downloadable guide with EVEN MORE links, tips and hints.

What kind of roles are there in space?

Engineers: Mechanical Engineers, Electronic Engineers responsible for the design and manufacture of spacecraft, satellites and related instrumentation.

IT: Software Engineers, Mathematicians and Data Analysts responsible for the development and implementation of software to control and monitor spacecraft and analyse data for weather, navigation and communications purposes.

Scientists: Geologist, Physicists, Biologists, Climatologists, Chemists and Space Medics, designing experiments and analysing space and satellite data.

Non-Technical careers: These include sales, public relations, business strategy, educational outreach, insurance, journalism, law and even tourism.

Where are the growth areas in the Space Sector?

New Space is growing rapidly with these areas seeing excelled levels of growth to date.

Growth areas of the Space Sector

The need for data is at an all time high as technology such as mobile communications, the internet on things, Earth Observations and geospatial information enable our every day lives -  from how you get your Uber taxi to how you call your mates on your mobile, it’s all controlled with space data and technology. This means that more than ever before we need more satellites manufactured and we need innovative cheaper ways to launch them into space.

As we launch more things into space though, we need to think about ways we clear some of the rubbish we’ve put up there. Space debris companies are paving the way for other parts of the industry including tourism. There’s already been plans for a space hotel unveiled for a few years’ time but no one will want to visit if all you’re going to see is space junk, and there’s safety risks to being around this debris as it flies at thousands of miles an hour. Likewise, unless we work out what food works well and how we sustain our health in space, the future of tourism and explorations are at risk. Companies are already doing experiments to understand what foods we can grow ourselves and what our body needs to extended periods of time spent in hostile, low gravity environments. Plans to explore Mars and beyond will depend not only on how well we manage waste maintain our health in space, but also what advancements we can make with materials and design. The ability to 3D print in space for example has reduced the need to transport habitats in their entirety – we’ll just print them out when we get there. We still need to understand however, how we exist in these environments; how do we make water, food, oxygen and replace materials that wear out?

Mining asteroids for precious commodities is also a growth market but then the question of who has the right to own these items for resale comes into question. This is why there will be a greater need for law and space policy. As it becomes possible for many of us to actually visit space, how will laws we have on Earth govern us in space? These are questions that will need answers, and maybe some of you will be the ones to provide them.

Start your career in space - Links (UK)

The Satellite Applications Catapult

UK Space Agency's Space Placements in INdustry scheme (SPIN)

National Space Academy

Royal Academy of Engineering

STEM Learning

Engineering Development Trust - Year in Industry

EDT - Routes into STEM Course

European Space Agency - Internships

The Royal Aeronautical Society

British Interplanetary Society

The Royal Astronomical Society

The UK Students for the Exploration and Development of Space (UKSEDS)

SpaceCareers UK

WISE

Space Schools

Space Camp

European Space Camp

Space School UK

Space Camp UK

Competitions & Hackathons

NASA' s International Space Applications Challenge

EO Dashboard Hackathon

The XPrize space competitions

The Ukayroc Rocketry Challenge

The UK Space Agency's SatelLife Competition (2020, future comps TBA)

DurJam

Steam hack

Hacktable

Major League Hacking

Angel Hack

HackathonsUK

HackerEarth

EVONA Resources

EVONA YouTube Channel

EVONA's Space Spectra

Found In Space - A guide to getting you noticed and employed in the space sector

Download Found in Space Student Resource
Download Free Student Resource: Found In Space